‘Where’s Realism In Today’s Cinema?’

Realism is a far cry in new age Bollywood, says veteran lyricist-scriptwriter Javed Akhtar, who feels the depiction of the common man in today’s films is misleading and the quality of songs and language has deteriorated quite a lot.

“Where’s realism in today’s films? Maybe yesteryear films were more dramatic in treatment, but they had more realism. They had a common man’s depiction the way the common man was, unlike today’s films,” Akhtar said in a group interaction.

The 67-year-old has been active in the Hindi film industry since 1964. He penned several successful scripts like “Zanjeer”, “Deewar”, “Sholay”, “Haathi Mere Saathi”, “Seeta Aur Geeta” and “Trishul” with his erstwhile writing partner Salim Khan in the past, and wrote meaningful songs for movies too.

Even as the wizard of words continues to spin his magic till date, he hopes Bollywood would wake up to the common man’s miseries rather than going urban all the way. “If we see some yesteryear movies, as modern viewers we can understand and figure out what were the pains of the common Indian men 50 years ago. But that depiction has undergone a lot of change. Today’s hero is hardly a working class man. He is born rich, sometimes not even born in India, the heroine is all about designer lehengas in weddings and Karva Chauth, the location is about a big, palatial house, the honeymoon is nothing short of Europe…so at least filmmakers need to retain the realism of society. They should bring the ‘gareeb ki samasya (poor man’s problems)’ to the fore,” said Akhtar.

The rural connect must not vanish, says the writer, who will talk about 13 cinematic icons and their landmark contributions to Indian cinema in Zee Classic’s new show “Classic Legends”.

“The middle class, rural culture seems to have no relation to cinema nowadays. I am an urban person, have always stayed in metros, never ever lived in a village, but I can write Awadhi…but in today’s writers that connect is missing,” he said.

With today’s films highlighting drugs, sex and alcoholism, Akhtar feels the change in cinema is evident with the change in “morality and aspirations” of society. “When people’s morality and aspirations change in society, the hero’s image — be it in reality, a play or a film — changes. What’s working today is because today’s generation is praising the directors for it, and cinema will continue to be influenced by the changing morality and aspirations of society year after year. So if the quality of cinema is changing, society is responsible. When we see new and better changes in society, it will be mirrored in movies once again,” he added.

In recent times, Akhtar has penned touching lyrics for films like “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”, “Wake Up Sid” and “Karthik Calling Karthik”, many of which touched the right chord with youngsters. However, Akhtar points out how filmmakers underestimate youth’s choices. “I don’t understand why filmmakers feel that anything with a little depth and sense will not make any sense to youth. They feel youth are not interested. But I feel any good writing will be appreciated by all kinds of people,” said Akhtar, who feels the tremendous response to his poetry in “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” proves his point.

Nevertheless, Akhtar, father of popular filmmakers Farhan and Zoya, hopes to see a positive change in the Hindi music industry.

“I am quite upset with the songs nowadays. They are quite cacophonic and one can’t understand the lyrics because of the heavy dose of percussion. Every song cannot be such that it has to be played in a rock concert! It’s not right just to create item songs either…we need songs which are soft and subtle too. “Today’s songs are just to hear, and not to sing…and what’s sad is that India is a singing nation. Everyone, whether he or she can sing or cannot sing, wants to sing. So we must also make songs with that intent,” he said.

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